IN TWEET: RON AND ANDRE DUKE IT OUT OVER THE NEW ABC SIT-COM “THE GOLDBERGS.” IS THIS 80’S NOSTALGIA TRIP WORTH TAKING?
THE DUELISTS: Ron Hebshie & Andre Pohlai
THE DUEL: “The Goldbergs”
The new ABC sit-com THE GOLDBERGS is an unabashed valentine to the 1980’s as seen through the eyes of a loud but loving Jewish family. It airs Tuesdays at 9PM E/P on ABC.
Here they are again: THE WONDER YEARS (sort of). This time it's called THE GOLDBERGS and we leap forward into the 1980’s. This single camera sit-com is a semi-autobiographical look at the childhood of series creator Adam F. Goldberg (played here by Sean Giambrone).
In the pilot, Adam’s older brother Barry (Troy Gentile) is celebrating his 16th birthday. All he wants is a car so he can get away from his overbearing parents (oh, how I can relate to that). Of course, this being a comedy, he doesn't get a car. Instead he is given a locket with his mom's picture in it.
Enter Grandpa (George Segal). He gives Barry his old car but mom forbids her son to drive. After a lot of screaming and yelling, Barry gets driving lessons from his father (Jeff Garlin) which doesn't end well. We have a car crash, a jail scene and mom embarrassing Adam in front of the girl of his dreams. By the way there’s also a sister, but she is so unimportant here that I nearly forgot her.
This could have been a nice little movie, with all of it's references to Brooke Shields, Burt Reynolds and Flavor Flav, but it's the pilot for a weekly series…and therein lies the problem. I just don't see this working in the long run. Sure, it's great to see crazy eye shadow, big hair and old computers but it’s just as easy to watch a sit-com on cable or online that was actually made in the 1980’s and many of them are funnier. FAMILY TIES, anyone?
There are two glaring problems with the new ABC sit-com THE GOLDBERGS: it’s too damn loud and it’s not very funny. It’s one of those shows that didn’t get the memo regarding unfunny jokes not getting any funnier simply by turning up the volume. Less screaming and more laughs are needed, stat!
The biggest offenders in the “Channeling That Screaming Mom from MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE” method of comedic acting are leads Wendi McLendon-Covey (playing mom Beverly Goldberg) and Jeff Garlin (as dad Murray). McLendon-Covey clearly has carved out a niche for herself playing the same character over and over. However, what might work elsewhere with better writing comes off here as a non-stop screed. Garlin is just as thuddingly dull. They’re not likable or endearing and leave you with the feeling that you’re being forced to watch home movies against your will.
Faring much better are the two Goldberg brothers, nicely played by Troy Gentile (as Barry) and Sean Giambrone (as Adam). Their shtick at least feels authentic and both young performers understand that it’s OK to vary the volume of your voice when you are in front of the camera. The pair also works very well with vet performer George Segal.
For a show that is supposed to be a heartfelt flashback to the 1980’s, it gets just as much of it’s nostalgia wrong as it does right. Some of the fashion choices seem more than a little off and we’d already moved on from STAR WARS to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Of course, none of that matters because THE GOLDBERGS are like that family you hope never moves in next door. That doesn’t bode well if they expect to be invited into our homes each week.